Italy is divided into the following 20 counties (regions).
1. Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is Italy's most north-eastern region. It is divided into four provinces: Pordenone, Udine, Gorozia and Triest. The regional capital is Trieste. To the north it borders Austria; to the east Slovenia to the east; to the south lies the Adriatic Sea and to the west its internal border is with the region of Veneto. This region has historically provided access to the sea to many Central European countries and is crossed by the major transport routes between the east and west of southern Europe.
The capital of the Veneto is Venice, world-famous for its canals. It is built on an archipelago of 117 islands formed by 177 canals in a shallow lagoon. The islands on which the city is built are connected by 455 bridges. In the old centre, the canals serve the function of roads, and almost every form of transport is on water or on foot. Venice is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world. Today there are numerous attractions in Venice, such as St Mark's Basilica, the Grand Canal, and the Piazza San Marco, to name a few. The Lido di Venezia is also a popular international luxury destination, attracting thousands of actors, critics and other celebrities to the Venice Film Festival. The Venice Carnival is also a favourite tourist attraction.
3. Trentino-Alto Adige
Trentino-Alto Adige is one of the five autonomous regions in Italy. It is located in the north-east of the country and consists of two provinces: Trento and Bolzano-Bozen. Trentino-Alto Adige has a reputation as one of the best holiday locations in Italy. It offers the visitor popular ski resorts and immaculate medieval towns, glorious nature, warm hospitality, reliable accommodation and extremely affordable prices. In winter, the skiing is second to none. Spring and autumn provides hikers with an established network of well-marked trails, with stops in remote mountain hamlets where German is more widely spoken than Italian and Sauerkraut is more common than pasta. All year round, the area offers breathtaking scenery with saw-toothed ridges, snow-capped peaks, lush alpine meadows and glittering waterfalls.
4. Lombardia (Lombardy)
Lombardy is the most populated and wealthiest region in Italy. It is situated in the north of the country, bordered by Switzerland and by the Italian regions of Emilia-Romagna, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Piedmont. The capital of Lombardy is the city of Milan, which is the second most popular tourist destination in Italy. There are many great sites in Milan including: the Duomo, Sforza Castle, La Scala opera house, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the San Siro stadium. Milan is also famous as the home of 'The Last Supper' by Leonardo da Vinci.
5. Piemonte (Piedmont)
Piedmont is the second largest of the Italian regions with Sicily being the largest. The capital of Piedmont is Turin (Torino). It is surrounded on three sides by the Alps, and shares borders with France and Switzerland. Piedmont is the historical home of the Savoy family, previous rulers of Italy, who have left behind a fabulous legacy of opulent, baroque palaces. Piedmont is also famous for its cuisine. In 2006 Turin hosted the Winter Olympics and continues to provide excellent facilities for a wide range of winter sports.
6. Valle d´Aosta (The Aosta Valley)
The Aosta Valley, a mountainous region in the north western corner of Italy, is the smallest and least populated in the country. The principal city is Aosta, situated near the Italian entrance to the Mont Blanc Tunnel and only 110 km away from Turin. In spite of this, the region contains Italy's oldest national park, the Gran Paradiso National Park and three first class ski resorts. There are ski trails everywhere in this area but the three main ski resorts are: Courmayeur - the main attraction here is the southern face of Mont Blanc but Courmayeur also offers skiing all year round thanks to the Gigante Glacier.
Emilia-Romagna is located in Northern Italy and evolved from the joining of two historic regions: Emilia and Romagna. The capital is Bologna. The region is divided into nine provinces. Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest regions in Italy and is considered to be one of the richest and most developed regions in Europe. Among the famous Renaissance city include Modena, Parma and Ferrara. The region has a lively and colourful coastline, with several well-known resorts, such as Cattolica and Rimini.
Liguria stretches around the coast from the French border in the west to Tuscany in the east. The capital of the region, Genoa, sits at the centre of the curving coastline and is probably best known as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Liguria is also known as the Italian Riviera, due to the large number of seaside resorts dotted along its coastline that stretch out either side of Genoa. The coast to the west is known as the Riviera di Ponente, and contains the resorts of San Remo, Imperia, Alassio, Loano and Finale Liguria. The coast to the east is known as the Riviera di Levante, and contains the famous harbours of Camogli, Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, and Sestri Levante.
9. Toscana (Tuscany)
Tuscany is the fifth largest region of Italy and is divided into ten provinces. Tuscany is the best known of all the Italian regions, not only for it's beautiful rolling landscape with vineyards, olive groves and cypress trees but also for its history, art and world famous wines and food. Tuscany is one of Italy's best wine-producing areas.
The capital city of the region is Ancona. The region is split into five provinces which from north to south are: Pesaro & Urbino, Ancona, Macerata, Fermo and Ascoli Piceno. This seaside resort offers activities for all ages, it is a perfect place for a family vacation.The shores of Marche also provide excellent facilities for yachtsmen with several good marinas spread along its length. The famous gorges are: the Furlo, the Rossa and the Frasassi.
Umbria is divided into two provinces, Perugia and Terni. Perugia is the capital of the region. Umbria is known as the "postcard" of Italy. Almost every town hosts beautiful examples of Medieval and Renaissance art, such as magnificent frescoes in the famous Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.
Abruzzo has a wealth of castles and medieval towns, especially near the town of L'Aquila, which was the scene of a devastating earthquake in 2009. The region has 21 ski areas with 368 kilometres of slopes. Abruzzo is also popular for cross country skiing, especially on the high plain of Campo Imperatore in the Gran Sasso as well as the Piana Grande in the Majella. Abruzzo's long sandy coastline is home to a many popular beach resorts, among them Vasto on the southern coast of Abruzzo.
The capital of Lazio is Rome, which is also the capital of Italy. Lazio is also home to the Vatican, the centre of the Roman Catholic Church around the world. The provinces of Lazio are: Frosinone, Latina, Rieti, Roma and Viterbo. Lazio is also home to the Italian film industry.
Molise is the second smallest of the Italian regions and also the youngest, having been established in 1963 when the previous region of 'Abruzzi e Molise' was split into two. The capital of the region is Campobasso. Termoli is the only major port of Molise and also the largest seaside resort of the region. Although largely forgotten by Italians and tourists alike, the region has many places of interest nestled in the mountains that are worth visiting. There are many beautiful abbeys, churches and castles as well as impressive ancient ruins far off the tourist track.
The capital city of the region is Bari. Puglia is the least mountainous region of Italy, consisting of broad plains and low-lying hills. Puglia is a very hot and dry region. This area is one of the largest and most productive plains in Italy where a significant amount of both wine and olive oil is produced. The baroque town of Lecce, in the Salento area of Puglia, is a favourite destination for visitors. Another attraction of the region are the unique 'Trulli' houses. These strange, white conical houses were traditionally built without using mortar in order to avoid paying taxes. Puglia is the location, between two beautiful coastlines, makes it a tourist's paradise. There are miles and miles of unspoilt beaches, spectacular cliffs and rocky coves.
Campania is Italy's most densely populated region. The name Campania is derived from the Latin 'Campania Felix' meaning 'Fertile Countryside' and it certainly is! Campania provides some of the most beautiful countryside to be found in Italy. The region is home to the beautiful Cilento National Park and the Island of Capri, the Sorrento Peninsular and the Amalfi Coast are celebrated all over the world. The capital city is Naples.
The capital of Basilicata is Potenza which is located in the northwest of the region. The other major town of Matera is well known as the site of the 'Sassi' cave dwellings, made famous by Carlo Levi in his book 'Christ Stopped at Eboli'. The Basilicata countryside is very rich in natural beauty, and is surrounded by three National Parks: The Cilento, the Pollino and the Sila. These parks contain vast areas of unspoilt forest and spectacular views across the mountains where wolves, eagles and wild cats are plentiful. There are facilities for white water rafting, horse riding and trekking and a ski slope on Mount Sirino which is open during the winter months.
The capital of Calabria is Catanzaro. Calabria is well-known for its beautiful seaside resorts, its long, white sandy beaches with warm, crystal clear water and the colourful nightlife to be found in the many bars and restaurants of the region. The Pollino Mountains in the north of the region are rugged and form a natural barrier separating Calabria from the rest of Italy.
19. Sicilia (Sicily)
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. It is one of the autonomous regions of Italy. The capital of Sicily is Palermo. Sicily has a rich and unique culture, particulary in the arts, music, literature, food, wine and architecture. Sicily is also home to many historic sites such as the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, the Greek theatre at Taormina and the Roman ruins at Siracusa. The great baroque cities of Ragusa, Modica and Noto are also well worth a visit. Sicily is well known as the home of one of Europe's most spectacular volcanoes. Mount Etna, rising to 3,320 metres, is the tallest active volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the World.
20. Sardegna (Sardinia)
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily). Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia. The seaside landscapes, especially on the Costa Smeralda, are among the most beautiful in the world. Numerous small, enchanting islets are scattered in front of the coasts including the islands of Sant'Antioco & San Pietro, off the coast of Southwestern Sardinia, which offer all the charm and hospitality of Sardinia. Alghero, in Northwestern Sardinia, has a fascinating Catalan history and a delightful historic centre.